By Fiona Ortiz
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A veteran Illinois political reporter quit his job at the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday and accused the newspaper of bowing to pressure from Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner by removing him from the campaign beat.
Dave McKinney, a 19-year veteran of the paper who covered the state capital, said in his resignation letter that the paper reassigned him after the Rauner campaign accused him of a conflict of interest, which he denies.
The Rauner campaign had asked the Sun-Times to disclose McKinney's marriage to a Democratic party consultant when it ran the reporter's story on allegations Rauner, a wealthy businessman, threatened a former executive at one of his companies.
McKinney said in his resignation letter, posted on his personal blog, that his wife is contractually barred from consulting on the gubernatorial race. A disclosure of conflict of interest would have been untrue, he added.
Rauner is running a close race against Democratic incumbent Governor Pat Quinn, saying he can do a better job pulling Illinois out of deep financial troubles.
McKinney said the Sun-Times stopped assigning him to cover the gubernatorial campaign after publishing an article by him and two other reporters that alleged Rauner made bullying statements to the former executive, who had threatened to sue one of his companies.
Sun-Times Editor Jim Kirk said McKinney's reassignment was temporary and not orchestrated by the Rauner campaign.
The newspaper last week reversed a three-year policy of not endorsing political candidates. Its lone endorsement of the 2014 campaign was of Rauner for governor.
Rauner Campaign Manager Chip Englander last weekend issued a statement claiming McKinney's story was misleading and inaccurate and that the paper should have disclosed "the reporter's deep connections to an attack group that has spent millions attacking Bruce Rauner."
In a statement Wednesday after McKinney resigned, Englander said the campaign is "saddened to see Dave leave the Sun-Times."
McKinney's resignation comes amid controversy and business changes at the Sun-Times, Chicago's second-largest newspaper. Its parent company has been reported to be negotiating sale of suburban papers.
(Editing by David Greising and Cynthia Osterman)